Monthly Archives: January 2011

Walking “In Her Shoes”

Today I was invited to be a guest speaker on a Lansing radio talk show.  It is called In Her Shoes.  The tag line: “getting straight to the point on platforms that matter to women” sums it up pretty well.  It’s a fast paced, one-hour show with two dynamic hosts; Tiffany Dowling and Shelley Davis Mielock.  The theme of today’s show was Matters of the Heart. This might have changed at some point since I was originally told it was a Loving Lansing show. Either way, I think the City Saunter project works well within both topics. The main objective of this project is to showcase through blogs and photos what a great city Lansing really is. For me to ever put this much energy into a project I would need to both LOVE it and feel pretty passionate about it.

There is no doubt that I love Lansing. Maybe you can tell from the way I go on about all the things I enjoy here. Lansing has been my home for almost my entire life. I spent about a year in Tacoma, Washington as a baby and 6 years in Richmond, Virginia in my twenties but Lansing has always been home. I have most of my family here or around here and my husband has most of his family here as well. I also have a lot of memories here; my first home, my schools, where I got married. As I walk around this city I hope to incorporate some of those personal aspects into the walks.

Lansing isn’t just boarded up buildings and pot-holed streets. Lansing is filled with tree lined neighborhoods from north to south and east to west. It has increasing neighborhood groups becoming invested in their specific neighborhood; promoting neighborhood growth, safety and community. There are sections of business areas that continue to pool resources to establish themselves as vibrant places to shop and visit.

Great examples are Old Town, Stadium District, Michigan Ave, Washington Square and the up and coming Reo Town.  Lansing holds the playgrounds that our children play in. It has the River Trail that zig zags out from the heart of the city. It holds the enormous infrastructure of our state’s government. I could continue an ongoing list of all the exemplary things in and around Lansing. But what is even more important is that Lansing holds a population of people who are just as interested as I am in promoting Lansing in a way that brings out all the positives. As long as we continue to sing the praises of all the things we are doing right in our great city, it will continue to flourish. And that’s good for everyone.

“We cannot walk alone”

Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, formerly known as Logan St., is one of two roads that extend vertically through Lansing.  In fact, if you look at the Lansing map this street actually cuts straight through the center of Lansing from north to south; or south to north.  How befitting, just in location within Lansing, that it has become Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.  In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. holiday I chose to walk a large chunk of this road.  The entire length is almost eight miles.  I was able to traverse about 3.6 miles of that.

By car this stretch of road is very familiar to me.  However, on foot, it has a completely different complexity.  This area has also had some growing pains in recent years.  The loss of Oldsmobile has left a gaping emptiness along the river’s edge and a lonely feel to the area of road that used to travel through this factory area.  Lights that often signaled a halt to traffic, allowing semi trucks loaded with fresh off the line cars to pass, now flash yellow.  Even the factory buildings themselves have long been demolished leaving expanse of open fields. Despite harsh threats of fines from the city, the sidewalks on both sides of the road were not shoveled.  If there weren’t a few inches of snow to catalog the footsteps of multiple walkers on this section, it would seem that it was mostly avoided.

It became evident quickly that this road borders the downtown corridor on the west.  In the distance the monolith Michigan Hall of Justice building stands regally, back side straight and tall, lining an entire block of MLK Blvd.  Even from the rear there is a majesty about it. Also visible briefly, is the Michigan Historical Museum.  In Dr. Martin Luther King’s last speech, “I See the Promised Land / I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”, he mentions places in time he would pass through if the Lord Almighty would let him choose a time he could stop at.

“As you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of general and panoramic view of the whole human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?”– I would take my mental flight by Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn’t stop there. I would move on by Greece, and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality.”

As I walked past Lansing’s “Parthenons” I did not stop either. I also came to a sign that stated this was the Renaissance Neighborhood.  In this same speech he mentions that he would stop at that time frame for a moment if he was allowed.  I wonder if this speech was at all an inspiration for this corridor.

“…I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance, and get a quick picture of all that the Renaissance did for the cultural and esthetic life of man. But I wouldn’t stop there. I would even go by the way that the man for whom I’m named had his habitat. And I would watch Martin Luther as he tacked his ninety-five theses on the door at the church in Wittenberg.”

Another significant section from this speech is when he talks about the parable from the bible. How Jesus explains about a man who falls down and the priest and Levite walked past without helping him.  But a man of a different race got off his mule and helped the man.  Dr. King went on to ask, why was it that the priest and Levite didn’t help but the other, “good” man did.  Dr. King imagined that maybe the first two were scared.  They feared that on such a dangerous road the fallen man might try to trick them and cause them harm.

“And so the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

I think in essence that’s what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was expressing; his ultimate hope that everyone would enjoy helping each other.  He hoped that there would be a unity among everyone.  He hoped that strangers would stop what they were doing to help another stranger and not have fear or animosity.  And he hoped that all of us listening would hope that too.

“I See the Promised Land / I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” Speech

The Best Place to Sled

Like balloons, sledding makes you smile.  There is some kind of deep in your brain reaction to a good sledding hill. Few things cause uninhibited joy; jumping on a trampoline, a helium balloon, a soft nuzzle from a happy puppy and sledding. I love making the perfect trail, entrenching it pass after pass with the perfect sled. I like that even after making the perfect trail the slightest misalignment on the sled can cause me to go off that trail, racing through unblemished, sparkling, white snow spraying it onto the front of myself like an ocean wave. Once stopped, pausing for a second to catch my breath, I then look up to my fellow adventurers. They are laughing at my winter frolicking. Everyone laughs. I can’t imagine living where you can’t play in the snow a couple of months out of the year.
For my tour of Lansing sledding hills we went to Gier Community Center this time. I grew up in this area, went to elementary school at Gier Park and am very familiar with this hill. I might be partial but this hill is the best place for sledding. The hill is a good height with a great angle. It isn’t so steep or high that climbing up it multiple times is unbearable. We were able to sled it for almost 2 hours. My only complaint would be the wind. Much of the area is now fields which doesn’t block the wind. It is always windy on this hill. Luckily though it sits right next to the center and provides a wonderful wind block. We were able to set up a nice warming area complete with my homemade cocoa. Nothing can bring a smile to your face more so than a few hours playing in the snow with people you love. That will always put a smile on your face. How can it not?

Lansing State Journal Interview

Heading out for the first news interview for this great project can be a bit nerve wracking, especially if you are not sure what to expect. I’ve come to find out that I can’t talk and walk at the same time. I guess you can say I am a dedicated walker. As I walk my mind is so concentrated on what I am seeing and where I am going that talking about it turns me into a flibbertigibbet. I find that I have rambled on and on about something; an anecdote, a paraphrase, an answer to a simple question, without the necessary attention put towards what I was really saying. At least that’s what it seems like to me. Maybe I am being too hard on myself; a lack of confidence in my communication skills. I hope this doesn’t deter anyone from asking to join me. On the contrary, I definitely feel I need more practice. I need more practice walking and talking. And a lot more practice really sharing what it is this project is about with those that want to join me. Just don’t ask if you can quote me on that.
Happy walking,

Angel Hill and The Northside Neighborhood

I am planning to do a series of sledding hills for my next few walks. Today I chose Angel Hill. Angel Hill is not on a map. In fact my only recollection of it is from over 20 years ago when my uncle Steven took my brother and I there. Luckily I knew roughly where it was and set out to find it. After my second City Saunter led me onto a few roads that were not actually part of Lansing, I came home and scanned a Lansing map that I had up on the wall. I now take my portable Lansing map with me so I can walk the most streets with as few overlaps as possible. This was one of those neighborhoods that I was really glad I had my map. Most of the streets dead-end into one of the many parks in this area. I had to cut through Ormond Park which was the backdrop for many of the houses in this neighborhood. Then there was the ever-present Groespeck Golf Course running along the east side of this area. The area is a bit hilly and rather pretty. I was surprised by many of the houses having a run down appearance, graffiti on the trees in the parks and overall sense of neglect. With this type of location; parks, golf course, close to highways, the house types and upkeep didn’t seem to match its surroundings.
I soon found myself walking on a street that had gates attached. Unless you are from the area this park entrance would be nearly impossible to locate. Once inside I came across a polite woman walking her dog and asked about the location of Angel Hill. She directed me around the bend, up the hill, across from the playground, through the fenced gate (which is usually not locked) and a quick walk to the edge. “That’s where the hill is”. So I did what she told me to do. At the top of the hill I noticed a locked gate with enough room to slip through. I vividly remember my single trip to Angel Hill. There wasn’t a gate you had to slip through. How could this hill of legend become a blocked off, private property, if we can’t golf you can’t use it either, no thrill 5th hole? I wandered over to the spot she directed me to. I took a couple photos. I suppose once you found the place, drug a sled through the locked fence and traversed the private property, it could be a fun sledding hill. Over 20 years ago when I dared slide down Angel Hill, the crowd was so thick we had to wait our turn. Then the hill was so large we were too exhausted to go down again. This wasn’t the hill I remember. Parts of the area did look familiar though; like the circular drive at the top of the hill. Other than that though, I’m not even certain I found Angel Hill. Or maybe there isn’t an Angel Hill to find.